Court approves agreement to save 15 of 98 trees from Naga City road-widening project

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A Naga City court has approved a compromise agreement between an environmentalist and the government that would save 15 of the 98 trees that were supposed to be cut down to make way for a road-widening project.

In a recent consent decree, Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 61 Judge Soliman Santos, Jr., approved the settlement between plaintiff lawyer Allan Reiz Macaraig and the respondents—the city government, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Of the 98 trees, only 26 had been left uncut by the time the parties agreed to the compromise. Only 15 trees within the 20-meter right of way but outside the 15-meter width of the project would remain.

Saved from the chainsaw were four Indian trees, three mango trees, and one agojo tree, santol tree, talisay tree, pine tree, avocado tree, mahogany tree and kakawate tree, as well as one unknown tree.

The other 11 trees would still be cut “for public safety reasons as well as the expeditious completion of the project.”

The court lifted the temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) in effect against the road project since September 2018. The settlement meant that future attempts to cut down the 15 saved trees would have to go through the court first.

“Whatever future cutting of these 15 trees shall require an agreement by the parties and approval by this Court or by some other mutually agreed process, mechanism or forum, discussed further below,” the court said.

The judge also “strongly endorsed” a proposed streetscape master plan which called for close coordination by the government with civic groups and the court. The plan would provide for the planting of trees in feasible areas and guide future road-widening projects.

The court noted there was “give and take” by both sides, especially as an expert arborist recommended that five of the 11 trees planned to be cut down should still be saved.

It said the government should take notice of the master plans to avoid having to cut down trees in the future.

“For them, this sacrifice can only be justified or compensated for by the concerned government agencies giving due and serious consideration to the Proposed Streetscape Masterplan or its concept when it comes to road-construction and road-widening projects, or more precisely and better still the planning and designing thereof,” the court said.

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